Controversy: Sexual Addiction

Last year a therapist wrote an article discrediting the value of sex addiction treatment, published in The Therapist Magazine (a California Marriage and Family Therapist publication). In “How the Concepts of ‘Sex Addiction’ and ‘Porn Addiction’ are Failing our Clients,” Jay Blevins, LMFT, creates a straw man out of sexual addiction treatment and then proceeds to undermine confidence in effective treatment.

Professionals benefit from open dialogue and debate. It may be that a sensitive issue like sexuality attracts a higher degree of controversy than other issues. It is good to hash out different perspectives in order to hold one another accountable for good therapeutic work. However, in this case, many believe the article was irresponsible. It presented ungrounded assumptions, inaccuracies, and misleading information.

Most of the ideas reflected common misunderstandings of sexual addiction among the general public. Let’s review what sexual addiction involves.

A person who struggles with sexual addiction lives a double life. They don’t know themselves as whole people with healthy Mind/Body integration. They struggle to enter into healthy relationships with others – relationships that include healthy sexual expression characterized by mutuality and respect.

They are one person presenting two faces to the world. They identify one personae as good and acceptable, the other is bad and needing to be hidden away. They present the good to family and friends while the bad lives a secret life.

Shame grounds their basic belief about themselves. They truly believe they simply are not worthy. Their double life is an expression of self-loathing.

They endure a self-imposed exile from others as they project a false reality through narratives and that keep their partners in the dark if not confused and with a vague sense that something is “just not right”.

Despite their partners’ deeper intuition, those who have invested in a double life, assure their partner that everything is okay. In truth, the world is not as it seems.

This is not an occasion for shame. Certified sexual addiction therapists take a health-orientation to sexual behavior. In his article, Blevins projects a myth held by the general population. Many may fear that sexual addiction treatment comes with moral judgment.

This is simply not the case. When a person persists in sexual behavior despite negative consequences – which is the diagnostic standard defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine — the person needs healing, not condemnation.

The goal of treatment is the restoration of healthy sexual function. Most associate healthy sexual function in service to a relationship characterized by healthy intimacy.

The self-report of a client is an insufficient indicator of sexual addiction. When a person self-identifies as a “sex addict,” or when a spouse claims one’s partner is a sex addict, the diagnostic work has only begun.


Image by Scott Dexter

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